Manchester Valley quarterback Cooper Hastings talks about the Mavericks.
Tony Shermeyer's goal is quite clear as he embarks on his ninth season as coach at Manchester Valley.
Shermeyer's Mavericks must erase the vestiges of a 2-8 season (1-4 county), which included an 0-7 start. He said it was a significant challenge blending a roster of Manchester Valley players and the ones from North Carroll that arrived after that school closed.
"We are going to be better this year," said Shermeyer, whose team posted victories over Surrattsville and Francis Scott Key. "We have guys coming back who understand what are expectations are. We had to go through some growing pains and it was almost like starting a new program."
The offense — which returns six starters — has experience at quarterback with senior Cooper Hastings, a returning starter. He's a composed leader with a strong arm and the ability to make plays with his feet in the spread offense.
"You can see his growth and he can really handle the game different situations," Shermeyer said. "The experience factor is a big thing. And he's becoming more of a run threat than he has in the past. That's becoming a strength of his."
Three wide receivers, seniors Ryan Brown and Colin Schuman and junior Sam Riley, are inviting targets for Hastings.
There's plenty of talent at running back as well. The Mavericks boast junior Brandon Yingling and senior Dan Melville at tailback and Brian Gallagher at fullback.
"Brandon started as a sophomore and Dan saw a lot of playing time as well," Shermeyer said. "Both of those guys can do a lot for us with their speed and ability to make cuts. We are not going to tax one guy to take the majority of snaps during a game."
Senior tackle Troy Warner, senior guard Shane Rhoten, and junior tackle Jason Frazier spearhead what should be a solid offensive line.
"This year, we want to lean more on the run," Shermeyer said. "We feel that we have a better, more experienced offensive line. This is probably the biggest offensive line I've had. Last year, we were very thin at the offensive line in both numbers and in size."
Last year, Manchester Valley scored 99 points in 10 games.
"This year, I definitely think we are better offensively," Hastings said.
On defense, the Mavericks are switching from a 4-2 to a 3-5 scheme. That could help improve a unit that gave up a whopping 314 points.
"We have a lot more speed," Shermeyer said, explaining the change. "I feel a lot more comfortable with this style of defense just based on our personnel. We have the combination of more speed and experience at linebacker. All of them can run and get to the football."
Gallagher and Melville are big-play performers at linebacker.
The Mavericks are hoping for a stout defense when they open the season at Williamsport on Friday.
"I feel a whole lot better in the preseason this year compared to last year," Shermeyer said. "Our schedule is not as tough at the beginning of the year, although we are playing some really good games. Last year, we started off with Middletown, got smacked around and we weren't able to recover from that for a while."
Hastings is optimistic about the season, too.
"If we go .500 or better, that would have been great," he said. "I just don't want to go 2-8 like last year."